Mrs Cole was set for her presentation. By 1:45pm, the projector had been set, everything was in order. She sat in the boardroom waiting for 2:00pm when everyone would have been seated.
Her colleagues gradually assembled and by 2:00pm, she began her presentation. She was done by 2:15pm after which she entertained some questions and the meeting was brought to an end. Without wasting time, she went to her office, packed her bags and off she went.
While on her way to meet Emeka, she called him. She was about 30 minutes away from Evelyn’s Kitchen, where they had planned to meet but she just needed to be sure he was also on his way or at least about to leave home or wherever he was. He picked at the first ring.
‘Hi Emeka, I’m already on my way.’ She told him.
‘Oh, that’s great. How did the presentation go?’ He was always very thoughtful.
‘It went well, thanks. Where are you?’ She asked.
‘I just left home; I’m on my way too.’ He told her.
‘Ok great, see you soon.’
‘You too dear.’ He replied.
Mrs Cole ended the call and dropped her phone. She began to ask herself the purpose of the meeting. Was it just catching up on old times or was there more? She tried to suppress the feeling of excitement that arose at the thought of her going to see Emeka.
She got to the place at 2:55pm. When she parked her car, she checked for Emeka’s car but didn’t see it. ‘He’s not yet here.’ She said to herself as she came down and entered the restaurant. As she was trying to decide which table to choose, she saw someone wave at her. She looked and saw it was Emeka. An uncontrollable smile broke out on her face as she walked to meet him.
He stood up to hug her and said, ‘I’m glad you made it in time.’ He wore a white shirt and a navy blue pair of trousers. His first button was undone.
‘I didn’t know you were around, didn’t see your car outside.’ Mrs Cole hugged him and took in the fragrance of his cologne. He smelt like a million box.
‘Yeah, I took another one. My wife drove the SUV.’ He explained.
For some reason, the mention of the word ‘wife’ suddenly made Mrs Cole’s smile disappear.
‘Are you okay, did I say or do something wrong?’ Emeka asked wondering the cause of the sudden fall in her countenance.
‘No nothing,’ she forced a smile. ‘So how are you?’ She asked.
‘I don’t know about you but I’m hungry.’ He said and burst into laughter.
‘I am too; I haven’t eaten since breakfast.’ She told him.
‘What will you like to have?’ He picked up the menu on the table and opened it, scanning through.
She picked hers but instead of looking through it; she studied Emeka and took in his charming looks. Age had favoured him; he looked even more handsome than he did those many years ago. The sparse white hair strands that lined his jaw and neatly shaved beards, made him look even more attractive. She knew if she kept staring, he would catch her. ‘Rice will do. How about you?’ The Emeka she knew almost two decades ago was a rice lover.
‘Rice’ He smiled. That smile. Still irresistible as ever.
Mrs Cole smiled. He didn’t seem to have changed much.
‘Why did you smile?’ Emeka asked still smiling.
‘I was almost sure you’d say rice. I still remember how much you loved rice.’ She was right about that. Emeka could eat rice three times a day for weeks without getting tired..
‘Hehehehe’ He chuckled. ‘That’s very true.’ He signaled to one of the waiters who came and took their orders.
‘So how have you been, Olufunke?’ He asked with a broad smile, looking straight into her eyes.
The sound of her name being mentioned by him sent chills through her spine. She always loved when he called her first name in full. She could not resist his good looks which was magnified when he smiled neither could she deny the fact that feelings she had buried years ago were gradually resurrecting. She however didn’t know if this was mutual or just in her head alone.
‘Hmm.. how have I been?’ She repeated his question, this time around looking down and avoiding his gaze.
He lifted up her chin gently, his eyes locked with hers, ‘Funke, I know it’s been so many years, so many things have happened to us but I want you to know that I still care today as I did then. You have absolutely nothing to worry about.’
The atmosphere was so intense. Mrs Cole could feel her heart beat faster. At that moment, she was oblivious of happenings around her. All she could see and hear was Emeka. He not only filled her vision but also saturated her mind.
‘Does he really understand the gravity of this? There is so much to worry about. We are both married; we both have children and live entirely different lives. He couldn’t possible have meant what he just said about nothing to worry about.’ So many thoughts ran through her mind.
‘Why are you quiet all of a sudden?’ Emeka asked as he gently placed his hand on hers.
Mrs Cole looked at his hand on hers and lifted her head to look at him, ‘Emeka’ she gathered strength to mutter. She knew the words she wanted to say but she didn’t have the boldness and confidence to let them out. She wanted to tell him that what he was doing was risky and not safe for both of them; she wanted to remind him that as Christians, it was sinful to engage in lustful acts. She however struggled with her flesh. She enjoyed the feeling being with Emeka brought and she feared that if she spoke out, it might all come to an end.
‘Yes dear,’ Emeka answered her. ‘What is on your mind?’ He asked fiddling with her hand.
‘Nothing much,’ she lied. She decided to keep all her thoughts to herself and bask in the euphoria of the moment
‘Are you sure? You look a bit worried.’ He told her.
‘I’m fine.’ She smiled.
There was silence as they both stared into each other’s eyes.
The waiter broke the silence, ‘Here we go’ he said as he placed their plates of rice in front of them.
Emeka detached his hand from hers in order to give room for the waiter to do his job. ‘Thank you,’ he politely told the waiter as he unwrapped his cutlery from the beautifully embroidered orange napkin that was beside his plate. ‘This smells good.’ He smiled.
‘I hope it tastes as good’ Mrs Cole said as she unwrapped her cutlery and watched Emeka take the first spoon. ‘How is it?’ She asked.
‘Taste it yourself and see.’ He covered his mouth with his right hand holding his knife.
Mrs Cole tasted the rice and a smile immediately broke out on her face. ‘This is really good.’ She affirmed.
‘I told you so.’
‘You did? When? All I remember you saying was you heard the food here is really nice.’ she took a sip from the orange juice in her glass.
‘Well, I was the one that suggested the place.’
‘And did that add money to your bank account?’ She teased.
‘Nice one.’ He smiled.
They finished their meal and Emeka paid for the food then they got up to leave.
As they exited the building, he walked her to her car. ‘Thank you for today, I had a great time.’
‘I should be the one thanking you. You made me remember what it feels like to be cared for.’ She had finished speaking before she realized how much information she had divulged.
‘Funke,’ he held her hand. ‘Trust me, I am still willing to give you all the care and love you need.’ He told her looking straight into her eyes.
‘Emeka, so much has changed. We are both married now.’ She detached her hand.
‘What matters most is your happiness, Funke. Are you happy?’ Emeka no longer saw the spark he once saw in her eyes. ‘I want you to be happy, I really do.’
Mrs Cole looked at him, she didn’t know what to say or do. She knew he was right about her not being happy, as a matter of fact she was far from happy. She had logical reasons to allow Emeka back into her life; he was the only man she had ever truly loved and now the man she called husband had frustrated her with his alcoholism and now womanizing.
‘I appreciate all this, really, I do. It’s just that I…we have to be careful. I don’t want us to do something we’ll regret.’ She searched his eyes to see if he was in agreement. He wasn’t.
‘Regret? Funke, the only thing I regretted doing was not getting married to you. Every day, I wish I could go back in time to change the decision you made that day.’ His eyes were full of pain and hurt.
Mrs Cole had the same regret. She wished more than anything that she hadn’t listened to her parents. She wished she stood her ground and damned the consequences. She knew she was paying hard for that choice she made. As she heard Emeka open up to her, she could almost palpate his hurt. Hers too was even now intensified. Knowing he was also hurting, brought her more pain. She fought back the tears that were beginning to gather in her eyes.
‘I still love you, Funke and I always will’ Emeka looked straight into her eyes. His voice trembling as he spoke.
She couldn’t fathom why her life was so messed up. ‘Could things get more complicated?’ she wondered. She couldn’t deny the fact that she never stopped loving him; she just didn’t know what to do or say. She tried to speak but the words weren’t just there.
‘Say something please,’ he begged, holding her hand.
‘I don’t know what to say Emeka. I have to go now’ she couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. She knew if she stayed one more moment, she’d do something she’ll regret. She knew she was in public but if she didn’t leave, she’d kiss him.
‘Okay no problem. I will call you’ he stepped back and allowed her enter her car, shutting the door after her. ‘Take care of yourself.’ He took a step backward to allow her reverse properly.
‘I will. It was nice seeing you again.’ She wiped her tears. ‘Bye’ she reversed the car and waved at him as she drove away.
He waved back and watched her drive off.
On her way to pick her children from school, she couldn’t help thinking about Emeka. She fought more tears from pouring down as she wished she had never broken up with him in the first instance. If there was one mistake she had made in her life, it was not marrying Emeka and the second would have been getting married to Dare Cole. The life she was living was hell compared with the life she imagined she’d have been living with Emeka. But the deed had been done. She had entertained thoughts of a divorce many times but she quickly shook it of when she remembered her children. What would be the fate of her three children? It wasn’t their fault she made the mistakes she did. She struggled with the feelings she still had for Emeka which were quickly getting reawakened. She didn’t know what to do and she didn’t really have any close friend.Even if she did, she generally didn’t like talking to people about her personal issues. She was in a fix and needed to act fast.
She got to Bimbo’s school, looked at her wristwatch as she drove into the compound. It was 4:20pm, she was right in time. Bimbo was in Primary 3 and her classroom was on the first floor of the two-story building while Bayo’s class was in the next compound. Though the same school, the primary and secondary schools were in different compounds. Mrs Cole always picked Bimbo before going to pick Bayo.
Bimbo, through the window of her classroom upstairs, spotted the car as her mum drove in. ‘My mum is around’ she told her friends who were also waiting for their parents. She picked her bag and ran downstairs.
Mrs Cole smiled as she approached. ‘How are you, my baby?’
‘I’m fine mummy,’ she crossed over to the passenger’s side and asked ‘how are you too?’ She opened the front door and sat majestically like a princess.
‘I’m fine, my darling. You know your brother will like to sit in front right?’ Mrs Cole smiled and gave her a pat on her back.
‘Every time he makes me sit at the back. I like the front seat too you know?’ Bimbo folded her arms and squeezed her face as if she had just tasted a sour grape.
‘Oh well, that’s why he is your older brother. Anyway, I’ll just act as if I’m not here.’ Mrs Cole started the car and went to Bayo’s school.
As expected, the first thing Bayo said when he got to the car after ‘mummy good afternoon’ was ‘Bimbo, that’s my seat.’
Mrs Cole kept her word, she didn’t say a thing.
‘But you sit in front every time.’ Bimbo confronted him.
‘Exactly, because everyone knows it’s my seat.’ He opened the door waiting for her to come down.
‘It’s not fair. I also like the front seat.’ Bimbo murmured as she came down and went to the back. ‘One day I’ll have my car and I’ll seat in front.’
‘Of course my dear you will. Do you know how privileged you are to be seating there?’ Mrs Cole looked back and said.
Bimbo folded her arms and looked out of the car. She wasn’t interested in whatever anyone had to say.
‘Sweetheart, that’s the owner’s corner you are sitting on. When you own your car and your driver is driving the car, you don’t struggle for front seat but you seat comfortably and majestically at the owner’s corner and give your orders.’ Mrs Cole tried to cheer her up.
Bimbo was not in the mood to be cheered up.
‘You too from time to time, allow your sister sit in front, just do egbon for her (play the elder one)’ Mrs Cole whispered to Bayo as she started the car and drove out of the school compound.
‘Okay mummy, I’ve heard.’
‘How was your day?’ Mrs Cole asked him, her tone no longer hushed.
‘Ha mummy I’m hungry’ Bayo exclaimed and held his tummy.
‘Didn’t you have anything during break?’ She asked sarcastically.
‘When you didn’t give me break money’ he frowned at her.
‘And why was that?’ Her face was expressionless.
‘Because I took your modem yesterday without your permission and I lied about it.’ Bayo understood the gravity of what he did and was sorry about it.
‘And what do you have to say about that?’ Mrs Cole took a left turn. She looked at the road all through the conversation.
‘Are you asking or telling me?’
‘I’m sorry ma.’
‘That’s more like it.’ A smile broke out from the corner of her face. ‘I’m glad you learnt your lesson and I believe it won’t repeat itself.’ She briefly gave him a sideways glance.’
‘Don’t worry, we will soon be home. Seyi would have prepared lunched. Okay?’ Mrs Cole told him.
‘But before we get home, can…’
‘Nope, not today my dear.’ She cut in
‘You’ll have to wait for us to get home.’ She told him point blank.
The rest of the trip home was largely filled with silence.
To be continued… Next Week Sunday! Please drop a comment on your thoughts on this so far.
What things have you learnt, and what do you think happens next?